Jay Fitzgerald, longtime Pine Crest coach, was inducted into the American Swimming Coaches Association Hall of Fame in Las Vegas on Sept. 7. Fitzgerald was one of five coaches to be inducted.
“It’s the biggest association of swim coaches,” he said. “To be put into the Hall of Fame is a significant honor.”
Fitzgerald’s coaching career spans four decades, with a number of stops across the country. From club to high school to college, Fitzgerald has had a tremendous run of success in his career, including sending 34 athletes to major international meets. He has coached 16 Olympians.
A collegiate swimmer, Fitzgerald began coaching in Richmond, Va., before moving to the University of Alabama as an assistant coach. Fitzgerald has stops in Houston and Cincinnati on his résumé. He sent his first swimmer to the Olympics in 1984.
He has coached at the highest level in the sport, including the U.S. national team. He was selected to coach Paraguay at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Fitzgerald came to Pine Crest after a 10-year stint at the Santa Clara Swim Club in California, one of the most storied programs in the country. He was reluctant to leave his prestigious post when recruited by Pine Crest. Fitzgerald was coaching in what is considered the most talent-laden swim state in the country and needed some persuading. After some negotiations, Pine Crest presented him an interesting proposition.
“[Pine Crest] offered a situation where I would coach, and they offered my wife a job,” he said.
Taking into account that his three sons would have the chance at a top-notch private school education at the school, the decision was easy for Fitzgerald.
“When you coach, you’re always putting your time with your athletes. Sometimes it’s good to remember you have your own kids,” he said with a laugh. “It might not have been the same level of coaching that I was used to, but it was going to provide a great situation for my family.”
Since joining the Panthers, Fitzgerald has a combined 249-27 duel meet record. He has been named the Broward Coach of the Year 10 times.
Apart from the high school season, Fitzgerald runs Pine Crest’s year-round club. The program has gained national attention throughout the years.
The club is highly selective, with a number of swimmers coming from outside the country. Fitzgerald gears his club toward international swimmers who are motivated to earn college scholarships.
Many of his swimmers return home to compete on their country’s national teams. The club is open to a wide range of ages, with post-college athletes training during Olympic qualifying years.
“The club is not a high school team,” he said. “We have athletes who we are sending out to major international meets.”
Westminster Academy swept the Class 1A races and American Heritage’s girls won the Class 2A meet at the Spanish River Invitational Monday in Boca Raton.
Boys’ team scores - Class 4A: 1. Sunset 46; 4. Douglas 110; Class 3A: 1. Naples Lely 24; 2. Cardinal Gibbons 31; Class 1A: 1. Westminster Academy 38; 3. Highlands Christian 80.
Boys’ Individuals - Class 4A : 1. Kurt Convey (CR) 16:01.56; 4. Matan Ozery (DOU) 16:39.35; 6. Tyler Bell (CS) 16:47.93; 7. Francisco Baglieri (MON) 16:51.45; 8. Anthony Deleva (Coral Glades) 16:53.86; 10. Carlos Lopez (CR) 17:03.82; Class 3A: 1. Jesus Hernandez (Lely) 18:00.12; 2. Ross Clark (CGib) 18:07.95; 4. James Wich (CGib) 18:30.31; Class 2A: 1. Nic Jacobsen (Saint Andrew’s) 16:36.70; 2. Jonathan Klumpp (NBP) 16:42.90; 9. Connor Hollander (CSCH) 18:33.15; Class 1A: Scott Simpson (Kings) 16:37.48; 3. Brandon Bejarano (WA) 17:26.92; 4. Casey McCracken (WA) 17:46.14; 5. David King (WA) 17:53.38; 8. Justin Ebenhack (HC) 19:11.44; 10. Chase Allsworth (WA) 19:26.27.